LIVE VIDEO: WTLV Live Video_1    Watch
 
LIVE VIDEO: The Chat    Watch
 

Rules urge bigger hybrid, electric car signage

8:18 AM, Dec 26, 2012   |    comments
World's fastest hybrid: A version of the new Jetta Turbo Hybrid, going on sale this month, that set a speed record of 185.4 mph in August.(Photo: VW)
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

First Coast News Apps

Get the FCN APPS

- Weather: Android | iPhoneiPad
- News: AndroidiPhone | Mobile Web
- Political Florida: Android | iPhone/iPad
  Windows Phone | Mobile Web

- Deal Chicken: Android | iPhone | Mobile Web

 

Hybrid and electric cars need prominent labeling inside or out to warn firefighters and other rescuers of the hazards posed by their high-voltage systems after a serious crash, according to an influential industry panel.

Hybrids or electrics should have inch-high letters or badges on both sides and the rear that are visible to first responders from at least 50 feet, says the committee of experts from SAE International, formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers, who looked at the issue. An alternative, it said, was distinctive lettering on the dashboard that rescuers can easily see through the windows.

The panel issued a variety of other safety recommendations for electrified vehicles, from quick-reference guides for first responders for each electrified model to guidance for tow-truck operators on how to safely handle hybrids and electric cars.

The recommendations will ensure rescuers "will not get electrocuted from high voltage," says John Frala, a member of the committee and an electric-vehicle repair instructor at Rio Hondo College in Whittier, Calif. "It's going to save lives."

Firefighters have worried about risks since the first modern hybrids and electric cars started showing up more than a decade ago. Even though high-voltage lines are often bright orange, the increasing number of electrified models from automakers as they pursue higher fuel economy has led to worries that first responders can't instantly identify vehicles that present special hazards as they go about cutting them up to extract trapped passengers.

"Hybrids and electrics are proliferating like rabbits," says Buckley Heath, a training officer for the Overland Park, Kan., Fire Department. "If badging is visible from 50 feet, visible on all sides and standardized, that can be nothing but a plus for us."

While automakers aren't legally bound by the SAE Hybrid Technical Committee's recommendations, they typically follow its findings. Automakers fully participated in the SAE process, along with automotive engineers and emergency response experts, says Todd Mackintosh, the committee's chairman and an engineer for General Motors.

Mackintosh noted that many automakers already have prominent lettering to indicate electric powertrains. He says distinctive badges, such as Toyota's "Hybrid Synergy Drive" label on the backs of several models, would suffice. Also, he says, the recommendations allow some "wiggle room" for smaller vehicles.

While requiring safety lettering might sound like a simple matter, it's the kind of discussion that can quickly run afoul of marketing executives and designers. Mackintosh says that this time there was a high degree of cooperation.

While the recommendations don't apply to other alternative powertrains, such as natural gas or hydrogen fuel cells, Mackintosh says another SAE committee will be examining the labeling and safety issues for them.

USA Today

Most Watched Videos